Ann Arbor Master Plan to Add Sustainability

In a unanimous vote, Ann Arbor planning commissioners adopted an ambitious sustainability framework as an element of city’s master plan. In a separate vote taken at the commission’s Jan. 3, 2013 meeting, they recommended that the Ann Arbor city council also adopt the framework.

The item had been on the commission’s Dec. 4, 2012 agenda. Action was postponed at that time after some commissioners raised concerns regarding a goal for high-performance buildings. On Jan. 3, the goal was amended to this: “Sustainable Buildings – Reduce new and existing buildings’ energy use, carbon impact and construction waste, while respecting community context.” Planning staff had worked with commissioner Ken Clein, an architect with Quinn Evans, to revise the language so that it “would not infer compliance with a specific set of industry standards,” according to a staff memo. [.pdf of pre-amended sustainability document]

The city has been developing this framework for nearly two years. In June, the commission had recommended approval of the 16 overarching sustainability goals, which are organized into four categories: resource management; land use and access; climate and energy; and community. In September, commissioners voted to disseminate the framework to neighboring jurisdictions, which was a necessary step on the path toward including it in the city’s master plan.

Additional background on the Ann Arbor sustainability initiative is on the city’s website. See also Chronicle coverage: “Building a Sustainable Ann Arbor,” “Sustaining Ann Arbor’s Environmental Quality,” “Land Use, Transit Factor Into Sustainability,“ and “Final Forum: What Sustains Community?

The sustainability framework will become the seventh element of the city’s master plan. Other elements are: (1) land use; (2) downtown plan; (3) transportation plan; (4) non-motorized plan; (5) parks and recreation open space (PROS) plan; and (6) natural features master plan.

A series of city-sponsored sustainability forums will kick off on Wednesday, Jan. 9 with a panel focused on “sustainable systems,” looking at how weather changes might impact the community and the city’s infrastructure. Panelists include Matt Naud, the city’s environmental coordinator; Dan Brown of the University of Michigan’s Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments; Jen Lawson, the city’s water quality manager; Cresson Slotten, manager of the city’s systems planning unit; Rick Norman, the city’s director of emergency management; and Jason Frenzel, Huron River Watershed Council’s adopt-a-stream and stewardship coordinator.

Other upcoming forums are on Feb. 13 (economic vitality); March 21 (diverse housing); and April 18 (transportation options). More information is available on the city’s sustainability forum website.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron, where planning commission holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]